Austen Shakespeare

CMA has launched a probe into Apple and Google "duopoly"

The Competition and Markets Authority has launched a probe over concerns Apple and Google have too much control over operating systems, app stores, and web browsers.

The CMA is concerned this is leading to less competition and meaningful choice for customers and constitutes a “duopoly.” According to the CMA, people also appear to be missing out on the full benefit of innovative new products and services – such as so-called ‘web apps’ and new ways to play games through cloud services on iOS devices.

The CMA is also concerned people could be facing higher prices than they would in a more competitive market, including for Apple phones, app subscriptions and purchases made within apps.

Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive of the CMA said: “Apple and Google have developed a vice-like grip over how we use mobile phones and we’re concerned that it’s causing millions of people across the UK to lose out.

“Most people know that Apple and Google are the main players when it comes to choosing a phone. But it can be easy to forget that they set all the rules too – from determining which apps are available on their app stores, to making it difficult for us to switch to alternative browsers on our phones.

“This control can limit innovation and choice, and lead to higher prices – none of which is good news for users.

Andrea concluded: “Any intervention must tackle the firms’ substantial market power across the key areas of operating systems, app stores and browsers. We think that the best way to do this is through the Digital Markets Unit when it receives powers from government.”

The CMA’s work so far suggests, that Apple and Google would meet the criteria for ‘Strategic Market Status’ (SMS) designation for several of their ecosystem activities, as set out in the government’s recent proposals to create a new pro-competition regime for digital markets.

If those proposals become law, the Digital Markets Unit (DMU) – which will sit within the CMA – will ultimately be responsible for deciding which ‘big tech’ firms get SMS status. This status will lead to these firms facing legally enforceable codes of conduct to govern their behaviour and to prevent them from exploiting their powerful positions.

The CMA is consulting on its initial findings and welcomes responses by 7 February 2022. It will be continuing with the second half of the study and expects to issue a final report in June 2022.

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